UC Hastings Law Receives Grant to Continue Critical Legal Services for Senior Veterans

“We are proud to continue our work serving veterans, and very excited about the cost savings our legal services have brought to the VA health system."

Joseph, a homebound Korean War veteran, lost access to Medi-Cal and in-home care after a lengthy hospitalization. Unable to care for himself at home, the 90-year-old’s health further declined until he was referred by his physician to the Medical-Legal Partnership for Seniors (MLPS) at UC Hastings Law.

MLPS advocates met with Joseph, whose real name is being withheld, in his home and helped him get reinstated to Medi-Cal and in-home services. MLPS advocates also helped more than double his income to over $1800 per month in Veterans Affairs pension benefits.

Due to the free legal help provided by MLPS, older adults like Joseph have been able to continue to live independently in their homes. That work will continue for the foreseeable future as the MLPS program has been awarded a one-year, $149,790 grant from the City and County of San Francisco Human Services Agency (HAS) to support its ongoing work providing legal services to vulnerable San Francisco seniors, including veterans.

The grant renews funding for MLPS Veteran’s project, known as the MLPS-V. Launched in 2015, the project is a partnership between UC San Francisco Medical Center, the UCSF/UC Hastings Consortium on Law, Science & Health Policy and the SF VA Health Care System (VA). The funding will also allow MLPS to begin providing legal services to high need senior patients of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.

“We are proud to continue our work serving veterans, and very excited about the cost savings our legal services have brought to the VA health system,” said Sara Huffman, Managing Attorney of the MLPS-V project.

Patients in need of legal services are referred by their medical providers to the MLPS-V where they receive legal checkups and transactional and civil law representation from students and lawyers who advocate across multiple areas of law, including advance health care planning, estate planning, public benefits, and pre-eviction housing.

The project has proven critical to filling the legal gaps for San Francisco’s senior veteran population, — a group that is vulnerable to mental, physical, and cognitive disabilities, as well as displacement due to the city’s soaring cost of living. Frail and homebound veterans are particularly vulnerable.

“We take pains to meet our clients where they are at; if they are homebound, we go to their homes; if they don’t trust us yet, we meet them at their referring doctor’s office,” said MLPS Legal Director Yvonne Troya. “We do what we can to overcome barriers to accessing legal services and try to address legal issues upstream before they become a crisis.”

Not only has the project helped hundreds of senior veterans over the last four years, it’s also been beneficial for the VA health care systems.

It’s estimated that MLPS-V has saved the SF VA more than $800,000 by preventing or shortening hospital stays of just nine veterans.

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